Here’s how my 3 steps to manage comfort eating helped Rachel (name changed to protect identity).
When Rachel first came to see me she was frustrated. She’d tried ALL the diets to lose weight & ended up 4 sizes bigger than when she started. She already ate regular, balanced meals throughout the day(that wasn’t the issue).
The problem was comfort eating; every evening she turned to chocolate & wine to unwind or treat herself. She was ashamed of how much she’d get through & to start with, she wasn’t entirely truthful about how much that was! She also admitted that whenever things got tough she turned to chocolate or biscuits to feel better.
It never helped.
No diet-plan was ever going to address her comfort eating. In fact, by demonising the chocolate, biscuits & wine — labelling them as bad/naughty/banned — dieting made it worse. Every diet she failed, left her reaching for the chocolate or wine more & more. The bigger she got the less exercise she did. She was embarrassed of her body.
It all seemed too much for her to get control of.
Here’s what I taught Rachel, I hope you find it useful too:
Step 1. Be aware of your emotions
Press the ‘pause button’ and ask yourself how you’re feeling physically & emotionally? Think about how comfort eating will leave you feeling later on. Remind yourself what you’re trying to achieve in the long term. It doesn’t matter at what point you do this. You could do it before you reach for the chocolate at the end of a tough day. It could be after you’ve downed that first glass of wine or even after you find yourself with an empty packet of biscuits.
The sooner you can do it the better and the more often you do it the easier it will get. Once you have an idea of what’s going on right now, try asking yourself what would be more constructive to do. Ask yourself what’s more important to you? Is it more important to achieve your health goals (whether that’s about losing weight, eating healthier or just feeling in control of your eating)? Or is it more important to get that quick fix of tasting that chocolate?
Don’t panic if you find yourself still munching your way through the treats; this takes time and practice. The important part of this step is observing without judgement. Noticing what you’re doing, when you’re doing it and why. Beating yourself up just leads to more comfort eating. So even if you still polished off the whole block of chocolates coz you had a stressful day – give yourself a pat on the back for trying anyway, ‘draw a line’ under things as soon as possible and move on.
Step 2. Deal with the real problem
Don’t be an ostrich burying your head in the sand (or the biscuit tin). Get proactive and face the real underlying issue head on. Ask yourself what is it that’s troubling you? Take a metaphorical step back and look at what you can actually do about the situation. Better still, take some real time out to do something else and help you get a different perspective. Go for a walk or go into a another room and focus on something completely different.
Get help – talk things through with a trusted friend/relative. Ask them how they would deal with the problem. Have an idea storming session with someone who really cares about you. You may be surprised what you come up with. If it’s something you think you can’t talk about with someone close, then look into counselling. The sooner you deal with you issues the better you will feel and the less likely you will find yourself turning to food to feel better.
This was a big one for Rachel, she wasn’t dealing with the things that stressed her out in her life. She’d never stopped to think about how much she wasn’t enjoying her job. As soon as she talked it through she could see what she needed to do. Once she realised what she wanted to do & took the first step towards looking for a new job, things slotted into place. Before she knew it, she was working in a job where she was surrounded by much more supportive colleagues. This had a massive impact on how she felt getting home from work every day.
3. Treat yourself in non-food ways
Get into the habit of doing nice things for yourself everyday – like spending time doing something you enjoy, even if it’s just for 10mins a day. Have a bubble-bath, pamper yourself or spend time on your hobby.
I know that if I don’t take some time every day to do something for me I really notice the effect on my emotional health. Sometimes I go for a walk to spot the birds, sometimes I love listening to a podcast – it’s a bit of me-time! Whatever it is that you enjoy doing (that isn’t food/drink/alcohol related) make sure you do it regularly – you’re the only person who can make this happen.
Try to have quick-fix strategies in place too – something you can turn to instead of the chocolate – for when something unexpected pops up to challenge you. It could be a breathing or relaxation exercise that you could do for a few minutes if you find yourself feeling anxious or frustrated. If it’s a workplace related issue maybe you could plan somewhere quiet you could ‘hide-out’ for a few minutes to take that breather. It might be helpful to plan strategies to suit different situations.
If possible, try to avoid treating yourself with activities that you might associate with eating like going to the cinema or watching TV. I’m not saying don’t ever do these things, but if we’re talking about treating yourself to avoid comfort eating, it would be more helpful to do something that doesn’t involve food/drink/alcohol!
Check out 5 Ways to feel a little bit better about life for five things you can do to help your emotional health – see if there’s anything you could do with doing more of.
Need help to ditch dieting forever? Want to eat normally again AND lose weight healthily ..? While still enjoying the cake & chocolate? Hell yes!
I can help you ditch dieting forever, either with my 1-2-1 support. Or if you prefer to work independently, you can learn all the skills I teach my 1-2-1 clients, on my ‘No More Diets’ online course.
My Weekly Round-up! AKA; what I’ve been up to recently…
- This week’s blog post has mostly been powered by Earl Grey tea – yum!
- Bird Nerd Update… Birds I’ve seen out on my wanderings this week include; a woodpecker flying past, then a massive flock of goldfinches (they’re one of my faves!). 2 grey wagtails down by the brook, in the same place 2 days running! Or it might’ve been the same one, in the same place! Also I saw a very noisy Jay (another of my faves) in a tree next door to school on the school run.
- My husband turned 40 this week so of course I had to bake! He asked for a chocolate cake & I suggested coffee buttercream coz he loves his coffee. Then I realised I’m out of practice making coffee buttercream, but it actually turned out well – phew!
- Books I’ve been reading; I just finished ‘Orphans of the Carnival’ by Carol Birch. Now I have to admit I was drawn to pick this up at the library by the red, gold & black cover, so didn’t really know what to expect. It left me feeling pretty sad about humanity, but generally I enjoyed it. Now I’m reading ‘Norse Mythology’ as told by Neil Gaiman – I can tell you so far that Loki gets up to some weird shit – ha!
Hope you enjoyed my first blog in forever! The plan is to keep blogging every week from now – watch out for next week’s. If there’s anything you find useful or anything you want me to share tips on then please let me know. And of course please share with someone who would find this useful too.